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without achieving permanency. Children who age out of care as legal orphans not only struggle with the problems that brought them to the foster care system1, they face difficult transitions into adulthood without family support. The most comprehensive study to date of former foster youth found that some youth that age out of foster care are more susceptible to homelessness, poor educational outcomes, unemployment, low wages, health issues and incarceration2.

Each year roughly one hundred children age out of foster care as legal orphans in Georgia3. The impetus for the Cold Case Project was a desire to present policy makers with viable options to improve long term outcomes for foster children. Georgia taxpayers would be better served by providing services to children and families that improve permanency than by paying millions of dollars in federal fines for failure to comply with national standards.

The following pages describe the development and implementation of the Georgia Cold Case Project. Chapter 2 describes the process of defining and identifying “cold” cases, the development of file review forms and processes, and the final program protocol. Chapter 3 summarizes analyses of the 214 cold cases reviewed. All case examples reflect real stories, only the names of the children have been changed. Chapter 4 describes the feedback from the field – results of anonymous surveys of case managers and attorneys. Finally, fifteen policy recommendations are presented in Chapter 5. We hope the recommendations provided in this report will help Georgia to better respond to the needs of children in our foster care system so that the goal of permanency for all can become a reality.

June 2010


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